The PC has changed its mind again - it is properly buggered, totally ruining my Opera theory. I got another Black Screen Of Oblivion two minutes after startup last night. It didn't even survive the obligiatory Scandisk you get after an abnormal termination. Naturally, I'm not best pleased - and I'm faced with the prospect of an expensive repair/upgrade/replacement of my games rig, just when I can least afford it. Bang go any thoughts of getting GTA: Vice City this weekend, too.
On the slightly positive news front - at least my gamepad works with the laptop, as does GTA III, albeit with a moderately sluggish framerate in 640x480x16. A mobile Radeon 7500 doesn't really have the *oooomph* to push the polygons quite quick enough, but at least it's playable, and the steering with a gamepad is a revelation. It's much better than with the keyboard, though you need to go to a slightly awkward gamepad/mouse setup when on foot. It works, though, and with my games rig out of commission, I can see a few hours being spent this way.
Having a working gamepad also prompted me to install Colin McRae 2 on the laptop, which is substantially less demanding on the graphics card. It flies along beautifully in 800x600, and although the force feedback/rumble force doesn't work, you're not entirely given the feeling that you're driving on a skid pan. The physics is good, and you can really tell the difference in traction between tarmac, gravel, mud and snow. The Sweden Arcade time trial level on snow is by far my favourite - I've always liked driving on snow in rally games, and I've got a nice ability to judge powerslides. I've got the time trial laptime down to 1m7s, but I reckon I can cut another couple of seconds off that, if I can get a good run on the last hairpin. Good game, and it's now out for a fiver, but I'd say it's only really worth getting if you have a decent pad or steering wheel.